The Many Ways Argan Oil Benefits Skin and Hair

Argan oil went from unknown to buzzy to ubiquitous in beauty products in less than 20 years. Here's why it deserves its status as one of skin- and hair-care's favorite ingredients.
Argan nuts laid out on green background
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For those of us who can clearly remember beauty products before the start of the millennium, argan oil still has that new, buzzword feel. Not a particularly well-known ingredient before the turn of the century, the Moroccan botanical import has become ubiquitous in the beauty industry, playing both starring and supporting roles in skin care, hair care, and even makeup. And for good reason.

"It is found in skin care and hair products [because it] has many benefits," according to Stacy Chimento, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Riverchase Dermatology in Miami, who says that argan oil is a boon for very dry skin. "Pure argan oil is great for patches of skin affected by psoriasis. You can also use argan oil alone or with your favorite face cream." Furthermore, she recommends using argan oil to seal in the moisture of any conditioning product you've put on your hair.

But these are just a few of the reasons argan oil has become a highly recommended and seemingly omnipresent ingredient. We chatted with dermatologists and a cosmetic chemist to get a better understanding of why argan oil earned its transition from trendy new ingredient to skin-care and hair-care staple.

What exactly is argan oil?

Argan oil is derived from the kernels of the argan tree's fruit, which are often peeled by Moroccan women working in cooperatives. "Fairtrade, sustainably produced argan oil is from argan fruits picked from the ground, which helps prevent overharvesting and the threat of deforestation," explains cosmetic chemist and founder of KKT Consultants Krupa Koestline. 

It's worth noting that, in recent years, there has been concern over how the demand for argan oil has led to instances of "aggressive harvesting." "Some people whack the trees with sticks to get the fruit to fall from the trees faster, and that's not good for the trees," Nicholas Magnan, Ph.D., an associate professor of agricultural and applied economics at the University of Georgia, previously told Allure.

What are the benefits of argan oil in skin care and hair care?

Got a few minutes? Because argan oil has an impressively long list of perks, thanks to its natural makeup. "Argan oil is unique in its composition, offering high amounts of oleic and linoleic acids, which makes it extremely rich and moisturizing," explains Koestline. Those acids are one of the main reasons argan oil is found in so many products.

"It has found a use as a skin and hair moisturizer because it is rich in oleic and linoleic acids, both helpful ingredients to maintain a healthy skin barrier because they feed our skin essential fatty acids like omega-3, 6, and 9, which our bodies do not produce," says Corey L. Hartman, MD, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology in Birmingham, Alabama. Dr. Chimento concurs, adding that those fatty acids may even help reduce wrinkles and boost collagen production.

But wait — there's more. "The vitamin E in argan oil helps maintain skin's youthfulness and scavenge free radicals," says Dr. Chimento. "Argan oil also heals the skin's outer layer by stopping transepidermal water loss." As for hair, she says it preserves melanin while preventing damage to the exterior cuticle of the hair shaft.

Furthermore, Dr. Hartman says argan oil also plays a role in treating inflammation because it contains CoQ10 and melatonin. "Argan oil has been linked to the maintenance and repair of healthy skin through its impact on elasticity and hydration, particularly after menopause."

Although it's an ingredient rich in other beneficial ingredients, it's not rich in the textural sense. In fact, it's a rather lightweight, not to mention friendly for acne-prone skin. "Argan oil is among the least comedogenic oils and therefore is useful in skin-care products when an emollient is desired," Dr. Hartman tells Allure. "Since it is a smaller molecule and doesn't clog pores, it is an ideal oil for incorporating into skin-care products that include other active ingredients."

What other ingredients does argan oil mix well with?

Argan oil is fantastic on its own — you may recall Dr. Chimento praising it for its effects on psoriasis, and a number of beauty brands sell it as a stand-alone product — but it also cooperates really well with other ingredients. For example, Koestline points to a recent study that study shows argan oil applied in combination with other topical agents like allantoin has a softening and relaxing effect on the skin.

Hartman appreciates when argan oil is combined with ceramides. "It significantly improves the skin barrier and contributes to skin that is more hydrated, firmer, and less saggy," he says, adding that it's also a good friend to vitamins. "Because it's an oil, it can help fat-soluble ingredients like vitamins A, D, E, and K be absorbed into the skin more effectively and even help retinol to be more easily tolerated."

For hair, Dr. Chimento says that pure argan oil mixes well with most ingredients and especially with other oils such as coconut oil for the purpose of increasing shine. But while there are very few ingredients that don't get along with argan oil, Koestline says that it works best when formulated in a product that does not require any heat in the processing. "For example, hair oils, body oils, and cold-processed serums best preserve the efficacy of virgin argan oil," she says.

Expert Product Picks

If you're in the market for straight-up argan oil, Both Dr. Hartman and Dr. Chimento recommend SheaMoisture 100% Pure Argan Oil. "It is affordable and able to be used from head to toe," Dr. Hartman says. "Its light formulation goes on seamlessly and provides the finishing touch to any skin-care regimen." Dr. Chimento likes it for smoothing and softening hair.

She also recommends Eve Hansen Argan Oil for skin, nails, and hair. She says it makes skin appear more youthful, and it can be left on hair overnight to increase shine. "It is lightweight, absorbs quickly, and is ideal for all skin and hair types," she tells Allure.

For an argan oil product that does a little more for skin with the help of other ingredients, Dr. Hartman like the Argan Smooth Skin Resurfacing Serum by Josie Maran, a brand that arguably put argan oil on the beauty map by making it a key ingredient in every product. "Not only does it increase cell turnover and increase collagen production, but it delivers with little to no irritation," he says.

SheaMoisture 100% Pure Argan Oil

Eve Hansen Argan Oil

Josie Maran Argan Smooth Skin Resurfacing Serum


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